All content © Copyright Stephen J. Krieg

Ship Rock, the Rock With Wings

January 11, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

2018_NM-8-Pano2018_NM-8-PanoShip Rock, Navajo Nation, New Mexico. I drove down into northwestern New Mexico to photograph Ship Rock. It's west of the town that bears its name, Shiprock.

The Ship Rock is the weathered remnant of a volcanic plug -- the magma that cooled to rock while in the throat of the volcano as it was dying. Afterward the volcano eroded away, and here we are looking at what was inside.

The site is on Navajo Nation land. This image was taken from the public highway, as I have no desire to intrude upon private Navajo property for the sake of a photo.

The Navajo call Ship Rock "the rock with wings".

© Copyright 2018 Stephen J. Krieg


First Snow Of November

November 19, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

November 17 during the night brought a quick moving cold front through the region.

In the morning, a trace of snow on the ground in Cortez, in the Montezuma Valley.

At Mesa Verde National Park about ten miles east of Cortez, the Law Enforcement Rangers were changing the entrance station sign to "Snow Tires Recommended". Indeed: the entire road surface was frozen. But it wasn't glare ice, it had texture and my tires had no problem. The park snow plow truck was already hitting the inbound lane, knowing that nothing much more would happen until the sun worked on it. Being a clear cold morning, the sun was soon doing just that.

Point Lookout after first snowfall of the season, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-6312-2Point Lookout after first snowfall of the season, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

Near the park entrance, Point Lookout was already glowing along its east flanks with the just risen sunlight.

Sunrise after the first snowfall of the season, upper Prater Canyon, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-6313-Pano-2Sunrise after the first snowfall of the season, upper Prater Canyon, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

About five miles inside the park, alongside the road at the head of Prater Canyon, a ridge to the south was lit up in gold and blue hues.

Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling site after first snowfall of the season, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-6323-2Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling site after the first snowfall of the season, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

Twenty miles into the park, at Headquarters and the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum, I took an early morning shot of Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling in deep shadow in its alcove below the rim. Spruce Tree House is the third largest cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde, as well as the best preserved.

Wild turkey along the road, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-6325-2Wild turkey along the road, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

In late afternoon, on the way back out of the south end of the park, some wild turkeys were hogging the road. The low sunlight in the roadside grasses made for a beautiful contrast.

Wild turkey along the road, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-6332-2Wild turkey along the road, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

Another of the turkeys along the road. In this image I avoided the urge to crop too much, preferring the added sunlight glow in the field behind.

Coyote in evening sunlight, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-6335Coyote in evening sunlight, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

Soon after passing the turkeys, I saw what might have been checking them out: a coyote. Although I only had time for a quick, unprepared shot that it rather blurry, I like it.

Sleeping Ute Mountain at dusk, from Montezuma Valley Overlook, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-6340Sleeping Ute Mountain at dusk, from Montezuma Valley Overlook, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

Back at the north end of the park at dusk, I stopped at the Montezuma Valley Overlook for snow accented slopes of the North Rim of Mesa Verde, as well as the long hulking form of Sleeping Ute Mountain on the other side of the valley.

Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

© Copyright Stephen J. Krieg


Petroglyph Trail, Mesa Verde National Park

November 15, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Petroglyph panel, Petroglyph Panel Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5948The Petroglyph Panel at Mesa Verde.

The Petroglyph Trail is the most popular trail in Mesa Verde National Park. It is located near the Chapin Mesa Museum, where the Park Headquarters are located. It's near Spruce Tree House, one of the largest and best preserved cliff dwellings in the park. And the trail itself follows beneath a rim of Chapin Mesa to the largest petroglyph panel in the park.

Steps at beginning of Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5908-2The start of Petroglyph Point Trail, below Spruce Tree House.

The beginning of the trail is a short walk down a paved series of switchbacks from the Museum. At the junction of the Spruce Canyon Trail, a sign directs you to the first set of steps on the Petroglyph Trail. Get ready for lots more stone steps, both up and down, though the overall elevation gain won't be that much. If your knees can't take stepping down, this might not be the trail for you. Or if you're not acclimated to hiking an uneven trail at 7,000 feet elevation.

A rocky squeeze on the Petroglyph Trail in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5910A little squeeze between the rocks.

Since you started at the top of the mesa, then dropped down about a hundred feet in elevation, you aren't far below the canyon rim. That will soon become apparent as spectacular views of the surrounding canyons that are cut into Mesa Verde become visible through the trees.

View of Spruce Canyon from Petroglyph Point Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5931Canyon views along the Petroglyph Trail. One of the park headquarters buildings is visible on the canyon rim just to right of center on the horizon.

Further along the trail you pass beneath a small cliff dwelling. Just another of hundreds in the park that were left behind by the Ancestral Puebloans as they continued their migrations southward about 800 years ago.

Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwelling ruin along Petroglyph Point Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5926Cliff Dwelling remains on a ledge just above Petroglyph Point Trail.

Sandstone boulder showing grooves made by Ancestral Puebloans sharpening their stone tools, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5928Stone tool sharpening rock, Petroglyph Point Trail.

Nearby the cliff dwelling were some sandstone boulders that the ancient ones used to sharpen their stone tools on.

Then more steps...and more.

Stone steps on Petroglyph Point Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5930-2Stone steps along Petroglyph Trail.

After a little over a mile, you come to the petroglyph panel. It's not the largest one in the Southwest, but it is a great one. And the location is awesome, in an awesome World Heritage Park.

Petroglyph Point panel panorama, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5966-Pano-2Petroglyph Panel location panorama, Mesa Verde.

Some people think that ancient inscriptions such as these are mere doodling--graffiti--by the ancient peoples. No way. The descendants of the people who lived here know what the symbols mean, even if their religious societies prevent them from revealing too much about what they know. Even among those people, there are various interpretations among the clans of the Pueblo people, but it's apparent that the work that was put into each one was important.

Detail of Petroglyph Panel at Petroglyph Point, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5961Symbols pecked into the sandstone face of the Petroglyph Panel at Mesa Verde.

After the Petroglyph Panel, there was just one more series of steps. The steepest ones, climbing up onto the rim of the mesa. But once up there, it was a relaxing walk along the mesa top back to the Museum and park headquarters.

Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg


One Tree's Fall Glory

November 05, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Cottonwood tree in fall colors, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5510Cottonwood tree in autumn glory, Mesa Verde National Park.

While driving the main highway through Mesa Verde National park on a clear, sunny late October morning, I saw a lone Cottonwood tree at the downhill side of the road. It was the only one of its kind in that area of the park, high up near the North Rim of the mesa.

And it was glowing with its leaves turned to bright yellow autumn glory.

Cottonwood fall foliage composition against a perfect Colorado blue sky, Mesa Verde National Park.2017_CO-5514Cottonwood fall foliage composition against a perfect Colorado blue sky.

I found a sufficiently wide pullout spot, stopped the car and walked the short distance along the shoulder of the road.

Cottonwood trees normally grow in flood plains. Down in stream beds where the water is. It is a water loving tree. Where there is a cottonwood tree, even in the desert, there is water somewhere below within reach of its deep root system. So what was this lonely tree doing way up here on the slope? It must have been a spot where the road funnels enough water into a small catch basin.

Cottonwood tree fall foliage colors in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado2017_CO-5512Cottonwood fall colors backlit by the sunlight and the deep shadow of the far ridge.

Whatever it was doing there, it was relatively young and obviously very healthy. With plenty of unseen water, and towering above the shrub-like Gambel Oak brush land around it on the steep mountain hillside, it had all the sunlight it could possibly want.

As I walked around the uphill side of the tree, I made several photos of the shining leaves being backlit by the midmorning sunlight. It's all about the angle of the light, as to whether you want the colors lit up or not, since leaves are translucent, not opaque.

I most liked how the far ridge was still in shadow, providing a nearly black background for the lower branches. So I isolated one cluster of leaves to give them their spotlight in the sun.

Cottonwood tree foliage in fall colors, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5516Cottonwood foliage, fall colors, against shadow.

Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

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Mesa Verde: Square Tower House at Sunset

November 01, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Square Tower House Setting, Navajo Canyon, Mesa VerdeSquare Tower House Setting, Navajo Canyon, Mesa VerdeThe Square Tower House site in Mesa Verde National Park has the park's tallest structure. Built in a Navajo Canyon alcove just underneath the rim of the mesa, the community was only accessible by hand and toe hold steps pecked out of an adjacent cliff face. Image No. 2017_CO-5398-Pano. Copyright © Stephen J. Krieg / Stephen Krieg Photography

Square Tower House is the name of an Ancestral Puebloan archaeological "ruin" site in Mesa Verde National Park. In addition to being located in an intriguing alcove cut by erosion from the sandstone layer capping the mesa, it has the tallest surviving pueblo structure within the park. The "tower", that is. Though it is not a true tower, because it did not stand alone when the village was in use. It had an adjoining structure or two, which is equally fascinating to consider.

Looking down onto the site, one naturally wonders: how do you get down there? Simple: the ancient ones had pecked hand and toe hold steps (if you could be so generous as to call them that) down an adjacent cliff face.

The overlook is a short walk from the parking area along the Mesa Top Loop drive in Mesa Verde. On this particular autumn evening I was delighted to see the sun so far south that it lit up the alcove with bright afternoon light.

Nice, but what I was waiting for even more was the warm rays just before sunset. I was not disappointed.

Square Tower House at Sunset, Mesa Verde National ParkSquare Tower House at Sunset, Mesa Verde National ParkA late October sunset glow lights up the alcove housing the Square Tower House site, from the Mesa Top Loop road in Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado.

Image No. 2017_CO-5491-Pano. Copyright © Stephen J. Krieg / Stephen Krieg Photography.

Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, Montezuma County, southwest Colorado.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg / Stephen Krieg Photography